Carr Hearing

By: Eric James
By: Eric James

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The death penalty becomes the focus of a Wichita court hearing.

Reginald and Johnathan Carr are scheduled to go to trial in early September. They're accused in the deaths of five people in December, 2000.

Thursday's hearing primarily dealt with what's called a ''death qualified'' jury, and that impaneling one is considered unconstitutional.

A death qualified jury is one filled with people who will only impose the death penalty. Defense attorneys presented evidence saying they have big concerns about that type of jury.

One of the main concerns is the presumption of guilt. Experts testified death qualified juries tend to make up their minds prior to hearing all the evidence presented.

Race also plays an important part. Researchers say based on a national study, whites are more likely to sentence a defendant to death when the defendant is black and the victim is white.

Researchers say many jurors also have a lack of understanding. Because of that lack, jurors disregard the law because they want to go home, or they feel forced to vote for death under pressure from other jurors.

The researcher is part of a Capitol Journal project that studied more than 11,000 jurors who decided capitol murder cases. According to her research, having a death qualified jury is not fair for any defendant.

Legal expert Wanda Foglia testified, "They are especially confused when it comes to how to they're supposed to treat mitigation. They also believe the law requires death, in situations where the law actually does not require death."

The defense is trying to show the judge that anyone who's called to be on the jury can sit on the case no matter what their opinion is on the death penalty.

The deputy district attorney attacked the researcher, saying she didn't have any research showing what people think when they didn't' find someone guilty.

The hearing continues Friday at 10:30 a.m.

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